Plasma cutters are very useful and efficient tools for the right applications. Plasma has come a long way over the years with improvements in hole cutting, energy efficiency, speed, ease of operation and programming, just to name a few areas. In fact, there are many part-cutting scenarios that might have been exclusively laser applications in the past that now would be a good fit for using a decent plasma system.
A good plasma machine should be easy to operate and capable of simple programming with CAD CAM software that makes it quick and easy to convert and transfer DXF and DWG files to the machine for cutting. Most of the quality plasma machines today are faster and more environmentally friendly, utilizing fume extraction systems that disperse the thermal dust particles that are created, providing a cleaner and safer work environment.
One nice feature on some of the machines in the industry is cutting tables with “zones.” Each zone is equipped with an electro pneumatic switch which is automatically controlled by the CNC when the torch is cutting in that zone. This enhances exhaust capabilities and reduces the size requirements of the filtration system.
Our observation is that the majority of the plasma cutters in the marketplace are using Hypertherm for their power source. Hypertherm has done a great job with their high definition cutting technology that focuses the plasmas arc in a way that improves stability and energy for more powerful precision cutting. The narrow kerf width enables fine feature cutting and minimizes material waste.
A milestone achievement in the industry is Hypertherm’s patented True Hole (TM) technology for mild steel, which produces significantly better hole quality than what had been previously possible using plasma. Achieved automatically without operator intervention, this technology surpasses any of Hypertherm’s competition for hole cutting. They also feature a nice remote pendant control, the Hypertherm THC for torch height control.
If you are in the market for hot metal cutting, you’ve probably heard quite a bit of “buzz” in the industry about fiber laser machines these days. In spite of their allure, we would encourage you to look into the recent improvements in plasma cutters and ask your machine tool consultants their honest opinion of whether a plasma cutting machine would make more sense for your operation. When compared to the high dollar amount of a new fiber laser, you might be pleasantly surprised at the value a quality plasma machine could bring to your metalworking business.